I have been on Weight Watchers for about two and a half months now, and have lost about 30lbs in that time. One of the practical aspects of this is that I've had to change my Lazy Bachelor cooking habits, since the pre-packaged stuff I'd been eating the past several years (mainly due to apathy) won't cut it; while it is possible to eat them on the 'Flex' plan, I'd end up using up all your points long before I had eaten enough to be satisfied. So, as a result I have rediscovered a lost passion of mine: gonzo cookery.
For reasons I can't quite put into words (but being at least partially due to having re-read the "Worldwar' novels recently), I developed a desire to try making borscht. Yep, beet soup. Crazy? Maybe, but when you get right down to it, beets and cabbage are zero-point core foods - you can eat them till you explode, on either the flex or core plans<sup>1</sup>. Also, it's really unusual in the US, almost unknown outside of Russian or Ukrainian restaurants and a few cities with a large Central European community. Besides, it sounds like an interesting thing to try.<sup>2</sup>
This Wednesday I did my second experiment in cooking the wily beetroot. My first batch was good, but a bit thin; the borscht I've had before was almost gruel in consistency, and so I made this one much thicker, and made a larger batch all around. My recipe is a bit unusual; the beans aren't particularly traditional, and the ideosyncratic mix of spices certainly isn't. But it turned out pretty good; needs a bit of salt, maybe, and perhaps to tone down the spices a little, but other than that, it's fine.
Borscht Experiment #2
makes approx. 24-25 cups (6-6.5 quarts)<sup>3</sup>
3lbs minced beets
1 potato. minced
1 potato, cubed
2 minced onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head red cabbage, minced
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
3 carrots, diced
3 celery sticks, diced
1/4 cup kidney beans
1/2 cup navy beans
1/2 cup pink lentils
1 oz key lime juice (4 key limes)
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/8 tsp basil
1/8 tsp thyme
5 stalks fresh baby dill
1/8 ground black pepper
3 crumbled bay leaves
You'll need a large stock pot, at least 8qt in size. You'll also want a food processor that can mince large vegetables.
Peel beets (wash but do not peel potatoes). Cube one potato, slice celery, carrots and put into stock pot along with beans. Mince onion, garlic, and cabbage in food processor and add to pot. Shred remainder of cabbage and add to pot. Mince remaining potato and beets in FP and add to pot (had to empty FP partway through). Fill pot with water until it overtops the ingredients. Set stove to med. high heat. Dust spices on top of stock and stir. Add lime juice.
Heat until boiling, then reduce heat to med. and simmer 1 hour uncovered, stirring freq. Reduce heat to med low and cover. Simmer for two more hours.
So now I have a freezer stocked with thick and mildy spicy beet soup, full of all sorts of er, beety goodness. As for the Weight Watchers plan, I worked out the point value of the whole pot as 10-12 points (3 pts for two potatoes, 4 pts for a cup and a half of beans, 2 points for two cups of cooked onions - I'm not sure if that only applies to fried onions, though). Split between 24 cups, that 1 point for 2 cups - and two cups of such a heavy soup is a pretty filling meal. Of course, its all core-plan foods, so you can go to town with it if you're on that... damn. That was a good idea, wasn't it?
OK, so it's is traditional to top borscht with a dollop of sour cream (or whipped cream without sugar in some places). I'm ignoring that for now. I may have it some times, seeing that the soup itself is so low in points - and a tablespoon of sour cream is 1 point, which won't break the bank - but most of the time I just do without.
The same day I did this I posted this recipe (and most of this message) to the User Friendly forum, and a few of the folks mentioned that beets are much easier to work with if you boil them whole first. I'll have to try that next time..
1) WW has two methods you can choose from, and you can switch between them from week to week (but not day to day, as some people have tried). Flex is the one where you count the points for everything you eat; you have a certain amount of points per day, based on your current weight, plus 35 points per week for if you go over the daily limit. Core is the one where you can eat as much of you want of a restricted list of foods, and everything else you spend points from the weekly 35 points.
2) Also, my Father's side of the family is Polish, so stews thick with cabbage are comfort food for me, along with kielbasa and perogie. I don't recall my grandma ever making borszcz (the Polish form of the dish), but for the life of me she may have.
3) Apologies to non-American readers for the English measurements. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to convert the units to metric.